The Film industry has made us all familiar with the realistic image of a ghost. Even if it’s marked with some features straight from the nether world, usually its human shape is kept. David Lowery turns the cliché upside down, dressing up the ghost in a sheet straight out of a Halloween party.
Although his expression consists only of head turns, the static figure evokes more empathy than its cousins gifted with a human face.
The ghost, just as living souls, keeps things bottled up – even though, as we could assume, death should have freed him from the yoke of our mundane worries. He happens to be jealous, becomes depressed, breaks plates in an act of frustration; he experiences mourning as intensely as his lover left alive.
He, however, doesn’t receive a chance to verbalise these feelings to anybody – not even to the viewer, who is forced to guess what’s hidden behind the white material. Ghost, even in its grotesque costume, has quite a material existence; that’s why the seemingly absurd trick not only defends itself but also helps us to commiserate.
He’s also strangely photogenic – aesthetic blueish frames wonderfully expose the figure in the sheet, staying long in the memory. His disguise is also a clue, that we’re confronting a totally different genre than those which usually come to mind when we think about ghosts. Afterlife embodiment of ‘C’ becomes rather a pretext for philosophical contemplation. Before we get there, a test awaits us. A scene of cake consumption, lasting a few minutes, picturing a need to compulsively fill the void after a loss, becomes the cornerstone of all experiments conducted on the audience.
In less than a quarter of an hour, the director confuses us; he opens the film with dreamy sequences in the spirit of slow cinema, then he deceives us with a thriller motive, keeping lazy sundance aesthetics. This pawky move could look as if Lowery was showing off. The length of the scene ( straining the nerves of the audience almost as much famous as Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman…”) finds its later substantiation in the context of the freshman ghost. Just after the scene, narration speeds up, gaining quickly a rapid velocity, as the ghost breaks up with, a time in the way living humans do. As a result, infinity becomes a while, and a while – all eternity.
The title suggests an obvious analogy; in some sense the narrative is still a love story, even though the lover of the ghost won’t get a chance to believe in him. Most of the fundamental questions about the meaning of life, which have been weaved into the plot, end up open; maybe because all the attempts of answering end up with a return to the start. That happens all over again to our constantly lost ‘C’
.The motive of a loop runs through the story, mostly under the shape of little things left by the subsequent inhabitants of the house, until it’s summed up in a thrilling monologue by one of the guests at the party, which is observed by the ghost.
If we look at “A Ghost Story” through the prism of an essay on evanescence, a simple (sometimes even boring) story seems to be a legitimate choice. Couple of unexpected tricks turns quite a hackneyed plot concept into a fresh movie. Undoubtedly, what helps is almost total
Abridgement of dialogue – leaves a wider space for interpretation. It’s fair, because this film helps with introspection, messing with our heads with a rather sad question: what does anything mean or does anything mean something?
Review by Magdalena Narewska
Check out our Kraków Cinema guides.